Sunday 4 March 2018 11:47 am

Pub group Hawthorn Leisure to attract interest from competitors as private equity owner calls closing time on investment

The 300-strong UK pub group Hawthorn Leisure is up for sale, according to industry sources, as its private equity owner looks to pass the group on.

The young pub group, which was founded in 2014 by former Merrill Lynch banker Noah Bulkin with funding from Avenue Capital, is in the early stages of a process which could value it at between £115m and £130m.

Peers in the tenanted pub world, including Heineken's pubs arm, the remainder of the Punch Taverns business which was not sold to Heineken last year, and Magners maker C&C-backed Admiral Taverns, are rumoured to be sniffing around the business.

Read more: Admiral Taverns snaps up Heineken's excess pubs following Punch Taverns acquisition

Bulkin, who also founded private equity firm May Capital, created Hawthorn by scooping up 275 pubs from Greene King in 2014. He hoped to create a business which would be able to survive pressures such as the smoking ban and cheaper supermarket booze, by relying on data to help set the pricing and mix of drinks.

It later bought 88 pubs from R&L and 11 from Wetherspoons, but has since sold of several "non-core" sites.

Read more: London has lost a quarter of its pubs since 2001, an average loss of 81 pubs per year

As opposed to managed pubs which are controlled by a company like Wetherspoons, or free houses where the owners are independent of any corporate, Hawthorn mainly operates a tenanted model where individuals rent the pubs and buy their wares from the company.

Hawthorn managed to pull in £41.5m of revenues for the year ended 2016, with operating profit ramping up to £529,000 from a £677,000 loss the year prior.

The pub company and Avenue Capital declined to comment on any sale process, while Punch Taverns and Admiral Taverns had not responded at the time of publication.

Read more: Magners brewer C&C and Proprium pick up the tab in £200m buyout of Admiral Taverns